Nelspruit will be rocking next weekend to the four-day 50th birthday festival of IT millionaire Robert Gumede.
There will be something for everybody – from a mahala concert featuring US R&B singer Keith Sweat at the Nelspruit Rugby Stadium, which can take up to 40 000 people, to white rabbits and queens of hearts for toddlers at the Nelspruit Botanical Gardens.
Gumede’s teenagers, Thema and Robert Jnr, are hosting a party with hip-hop artists and DJs, while those who cracked an invitation to the jazz night on Thursday featuring Judith Sephuma will be warned not to stay up too late, as a golf game will start punctually at 7am the next day at the Nelspruit Golf Course, where a hole was named after Gumede.
The IT magnate was the fifth of seven siblings raised by Keni Gumede, a single mother and domestic worker, in the Nelspruit suburb of Nelsville.
According to his CV, he started working as a caddie at the Nelspruit Golf Club when he was seven. Savings from this job eventually helped him fund his studies in law at the University of Zululand; and in 1995, he founded what was to become the IT-empire Gijima, later rebranded as Guma Group.
Gumede has been outspoken over his financial backing of the ANC and is a close friend of the party’s former treasurer, Mathews Phosa.
His lavish wedding to his second wife Portia Mkhize at the Nelspruit Golf Club in 2009 was attended by former national police commissioner Bheki Cele, then ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema, and ANC spokesperson Jackson Mthembu.
Gumede’s 50th birthday bash follows on a 12-year-long tradition of “Annual Guma Family Weekends” hosted by Guma Group in Nelspruit.
According to Gumede, it’s an annual highlight for Mbombela residents.
“Paying tribute to his roots is very important to Robert – this is why his family and business clients, partners and their families, gather in Mbombela every year, the place where he was born and raised,” said spokesperson Lunice Johnston.
Asked about the budget, she said: “The cost for the event is paid for by Guma Group. The budget of the festivities is a private matter. It’s more important to Robert to give back to the community.”
Nelspruit will be packed with out-of-town revellers. Its four-star hotels – the Protea (with 94 rooms), its Emnotweni Sun (106), and Mercure (104) are fully booked for the weekend.
Festivities will kick off on Thursday with a “Diva Jazz Night” tribute to his mother.
The invitation reads: “In celebration of Keni (1939-2002) the woman who gave birth to and raised the son of the soil, Robert Matana Gumede.”
In addition to a performance by Sephuma, the jazz evening will feature a braai in the parking lot of the Emnotweni Sun.
On Friday evening, a banquet dinner will be hosted in a “theatre of dreams” with an intimate show by Sweat and a stage play depicting Gumede’s “past five decades of life, hardship and dreams” titled The Journey: The Unfinished Story.
Sweat will take to the stage at the Nelspruit Rugby Stadium on Saturday night, along with other top local acts. Gumede and his “VVIP guests” will relax inside their own special marquees at the stadium.
Or maybe not relax. In a statement this week, Gumede said: “Everyone will have to bring their dancing shoes and must have the stamina to boogie all night long until 6am the next day.”
Meanwhile, a “Survivor Sleepover” with DJs and hip-hop artists will be hosted by Gumede’s teenaged kids, Thema and Robert Jnr, in Hazyview. Toddlers including Gumede’s babies Keni and Natana will be entertained at an “Alice in Wonderland” themed party at the Nelspruit Botanical Gardens. Buses will be provided to transport guests.
Festivities will be concluded on Sunday with a “bon voyage champagne breakfast”.
Guests invited to the four-day festival are requested to register on a website created especially for the event. Gumede apologises to those who weren’t invited, saying that he had been “inundated” with requests and that space was limited.
The website states that Gumede’s 50th birthday celebration is aimed at “getting to know one another, to engage in fun, competitive activities and to network in a relaxed family environment”.
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